Saturday, saw the return of two former Dragons to the Dragons’ Den, Chris McGrew and Carl Pearson, both of whom now line up in Leicester colours. Meanwhile, Bradford were without their American power forward, Ricky Fetske, who was still suffering the after effects of a head injury the previous weekend.
In the opening quarter, it was clear that Bradford were missing the aerial presence of Fetske. However, in what turned out to be a rather scrappy affair, there was little to choose between the two teams when the buzzer sounded for the first scheduled break, although Leicester held a slight edge over their hosts, 20-23.
After the break, Bradford started strong but couldn’t maintain the momentum and allowed the Warriors to pull away again. The home side did just enough to keep themselves in touch, going into the final quarter at 62-67.
It was that final quarter which saw Bradford eventually gain dominance in the fixture, grinding down Leicester’s lead and then building up an advantage of their own. With only one minute fourteen seconds remaining on the clock, the hosts led by ninety points to eighty-two, forcing Leicester coach, Karl Brown to call a time-out. However, his interventions were not enough to turn the game back in Leicester’s favour as Bradford held out for the victory (92-86).
Die hard Dragon, Rihards Sulcs topped the Dragons score charts with 28 points, ably supported by Raifi Saipe (20 points), Jason Swaine (17) and Marcus Gooding (16). However, the game high went to Leicester’s Rodney Sanders, who bagged an impressive 31 points for the visitors.
Onto Sunday, and Hemel Storm arrived in the Den, keen to revenge Bradford’s ten-point victory (94-104) in the final game of 2016. There was little to choose between the two sides in the opening quarter, with Bradford holding the smallest of leads at 22-21.
But then, it all started to fall apart for Bradford and four minutes into the second period they were yet to add to their tally, whilst Hemel had opened up a twelve-point lead (22-34). Hemel stretched it further to fourteen points (29-43), before the Dragons made a mini-recovery to keep themselves in touch at half time. As the teams left the court, Hemel’s advantage was down to eight points, 37-45.
The home side slowly, but surely, pulled themselves back into contention during the third quarter, and as the buzzer sounded for the end of the period the gap was a mere three points, 60-63.
The scores stayed close but, with just less than five minutes of the game remaining, the Dragons finally gained control of the contest, leading 71-68. However, any celebrations were short lived, as less than a minute later coach Mellor called for time with his Bradford side once again trailing, 71-74. There was nothing Bradford could do to stop Hemel from taking the win and the game ended with the scores at 80-87.
A reflective Chris Mellor commented on the weekends games, “It was a scrappy, disjointed game (against Leicester) and we went down by twelve points in the third quarter. But, we upped out defensive intensity and started making some threes, which saw us home. Against Hemel, I thought we played hard, but not smart at times and turnovers cost us late on, whilst they mad the plays during the final three minutes.”
Basketball is back in the Dragons’ Den this weekend, as Bradford host London Lituanica in their final regular fixture of the season. Tip-off in the Den is at 6:15pm. The game will be immediately followed by the clubs end of season awards ceremony at Glyde House in Bradford. Tickets for the event cost £5, which includes a buffet. A bar is also available. For further details and how to book, please see the Dragons website.
Photographs © ALEX DANIEL PHOTOGRAPHY